Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, and welcome to the last entry for the year. One of my goals in 2020 will be to start to publicize my writing, so maybe someone will actually read what I lay down. Even if no one does though, I do enjoy the ritual of writing and so I do see this continuing regardless. I am also looking forward to my first long form single-topic entry which will be a summary of my reading for 2019. If I get a few hours in the next few days while I am still on holidays, I will even do some analysis of words read, favorite genre, et cetera.
The last eight days have been time off for me, and I have been busy doing nothing much at all. Reading, skating, a bit of cycling, some cooking, some visiting, but above all, just relaxing. This week's entry reflects that with just a few books, no big topics, and a bunch of beer.
Let's get on with it, shall we?
First stop this week will be on the three books I finished in the past fortnight. The first was "The Sword of Shannara" by Terry Brooks. I read the "Elfstones of Shannara" way back in junior high, and it had a lasting impression on me, at least as far as character names go. I have named nearly every video game character Balinor (or Balinore in instances where there was a naming conflict, as is the case for my World of Warcraft gnome rogue on the Perenolde realm) I have created in the past thirty-five years. Beyond the impact of that one character's name, having fast forwarded through the years has left me with a far less favorable impression on Brooks's writing. Between his endless stream of overly long sentences, to his habit of picking adjectives to overuse for particular chapters, the book was a serious slog to get through. The only reason I finished it was that I really wanted to re-read Elfstones, but I am definitely doubting the logic of that move. I might add Elfstones to my list for 2020, but if I do, it will be late in the year to allow me time to forget how punishing Sword was to read.
The next stop was "Mort", the fourth Discworld novel from Terry Pratchett, and the third one I read in 2019. Mort was quite enjoyable, with a number of chuckle-worthy moments. It reminded me more of "The Light Fantastic" which was funny but also interesting, where "The Color of Magic" was just funny, and "Equal Rites" was more serious than funny. The Discworld novels are proving to be a great way to fit in a book after a particularly deep or long read. That isn't meant to imply that they are not worth the time to read at all. I just find them to be great books to pop into the reading pile every few months to allow for some enjoyable reading, instead of reading something that is meant to be more serious, or instead of something non-fiction.
The third stop this fortnight was another enjoyable read. "The Quiche of Death" by M. C. Beaton is a British cozy mystery and something I discovered as it was displayed as a staff pick at my local library branch. It was a great find, and fit the mood I was in at the end of a long and very busy year.. The cantakerous-turned-almost-lovable protagonist transforms into a someone the local rural denizens can love, someone the reader can feel empathetic for, and an amateur detective all in a couple hundred pages. The fact that Agatha Raisin, and yes, that is the protagonist's name, will do all of this is pretty clear about a third of the way through the novel, but that's fine. Understanding and experiencing how the journey and the transformation would unfold was undoubtedly a large part of the charm of the story. I can see myself reading more novels in the Agatha Raisin series in the future.
Those three books bring my total for 2019 to 49. I am closing in on 50 and should be able to finish "Collapse" by Jared Diamond in the next ... 54 hours. I said in my post two weeks ago that I am going to set my reading goal for 2020 to be 52 books. Included in that goal will be to finish up all of the books that I have started but not finished, including the books that I need to keep getting on holds from the library, like "The Silk Roads" and "Off Armageddon Reef".
One other point of note for this week. I have decided to move my book links from Amazon to WorldCat. I wasn't familiar with WorldCat before reading Maria Popova's wonderful "Brain Pickings" weekly emails, but I now know that it is "is the world's largest library catalog". Popova has a supernatural ability to compile "interesting and inspiring articles across art, science, philosophy, creativity, children's books, and other strands of our search for truth, beauty, and meaning". I am in awe of what she produces on a weekly basis, and if links to WorldCat are good enough for Popova, they are certainly good enough for me.
Happy holidays and good cheer to everyone, especially in the form of numerous and varied beers! In the past couple of weeks, I have been able to check in seven new beers, and with it, have accumulated seven new badges on Untappd.
First was a Peroni, the classic Italian lager, which was definitely better than I expected, but I did go in with low expectations (3.0 / 5). Next was the Goose Island Midway IPA. I went into my third offering from Goose Island hoping for something really good, but the Midway was my third disappointment in a row from them. I must be missing something, as a lot of people speak highly of the Chicago brewery. (3.0 / 5). Things got better after that. The 999 Spiced Wit collab from Blindman, Grain Bin, and Hell's Basement was a decent wit. (3.25 / 5), and the Mazarine Dragon from Alley Kat was a solid, fruity Double IPA. (3.75 / 5). Stay Golden is a Belgian Blonde from SYC Brewing, another local microbrewery. This was crisp and clean and well crafted. (3.75 / 5). Rounding out the beers were two more collaborations, the first between Banded Peak and Cabin, and the second between Snake Lake and Folding Mountain. The Abbott Dubbel and the Maple Imperial Stout were really well crafted, and both had enough flavor and character to avoid getting overpowered by the high alcohol levels. (3.75 / 5 for both)
From this six+one pack of beers came the Hoppy Hanukkah 2019, Better Together (Level 3), I Believe in IPA! (Level 24), The Great White North (Level 89), Middle of the Road (Level 60) 2x (Level 6), and Beyond a Shadow of a Stout (Level 6) badges on Untappd.
The list of new words this fortnight is deceptively small. I have only four words this time around, but if you look at the side of my copy of "Collapse", you'll notice the fore edge is forested with stickies of words to look up (and to be fair, other items to reference or quote). The New Words section of the next entry should be much longer.